59. Pandan Chiffon Cake – South East Asia & Gluten Free

Huge and Fluffy Pandan Cake

Huge and Fluffy Pandan Cake

Searching for a suitably exotic and challenging recipe I remembered a wonderful recipe I was given by a fellow cake clubber. Her family recipe for Pandan Cake.  Not to be confused with Panda cake. Although a Panda Pandan Cake would be immense.

The Great Reveal! (Probably not the best photo that I could have got of the delicate Pandan Chiffon Cake but it shows how brightly coloured it is on the inside!)

The Great Reveal! (Probably not the best photo that I could have got of the delicate Pandan Chiffon Cake but it shows how brightly coloured it is on the inside!)

Pandan is a traditional flavouring used in South East Asia. (You might find Pandan Cake in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.) It comes from the leaves of the Pandan plant. It is also used to help flavour dishes such as jasmine sticky rice.  If you can get a hold of some Pandan leaves you can make your own extract by boiling the leaves in a small amount of water. Pandan cake is usually green because of the chlorophyll from the leaves  but as the leaves aren’t readily available everywhere most Pandan essences contain some bright food colouring to help recreate the glorious green sponge at home.

Gloriously Green Pandan Essence and Pandan infused Glutinous Rice flour

Gloriously Green Pandan Essence and Pandan infused Glutinous Rice flour

In search for Pandan paste I found Pandan essence and Pandanus Glutinous Rice flour which contained the elusive Pandan extract.  As rice flour behaves in a slightly different way to normal plain flour I had to modify my recipe to accommodate the changes. You don’t have to use the green flour if you can’t find it. You can use self raising or plain. But if you prefer gluten free go for rice flour.  Glutinous rice flour (despite it’s name) is gluten free. The glutinous bit means the rice belongs to the sticky rice family.

The Pandan Chiffon Cake in amongst the stunning array of Clandestine Cakes

The Pandan Chiffon Cake in amongst the stunning array of Clandestine Cakes

Now upon extra research I realised that this is a chiffon cake. Those Great British Bake off fans will remember this as one of the technical challenges that was a bit tricky to bake! And considering my oven’s unpredictability this may not be the best choice to bake for our first Clandestine Cake Club gathering of 2014. But I do like a challenge!

Whisk 8 eggs yolks with the sugar

Whisk 8 eggs yolks with the sugar

This has a lot of eggs in it so you will need 2 big bowls but doesn’t take as long to make as you might think. (Only if you stop to take photos along the way does this take a long time! ). Whisk 8 egg yolks with 100g of sugar until light and fluffy

Whisk in the coconut milk and oil

Whisk in the coconut milk and oil

Whisk in the coconut milk along with the pandan essence/paste/extract.  If you’re worried it’s not going to be green enough add a dot of green food colouring gel.  It will soon become a frothy fluid batter with a green tinge to it.

Adding the Pandan Essence

Adding the fluorescent Pandan Essence

Sift in the flour ( whatever type you prefer) along with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.  If using self raising flour you will not need as much raising agent.  Whisk a third of the flour into the batter followed by a third of the oil. Repeat until it’s all combined.

Whisking in the glutinous rice flour - How bright is the batter!

Whisking in the glutinous rice flour – How bright is the batter!

Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Then gradually add 100g of sugar and continue to whisk on high until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites (adding the sugar gradually) until stiff peaks are formed

Whisk the egg whites (adding the sugar gradually) until stiff peaks are formed

Fold a dollop of egg whites into the green batter to loosen the mix and then carefully fold the egg whites in to preserve the air in the mix and help the cake rise evenly.

Carefully fold in the egg whites

Carefully fold in the egg whites – Love how green the batter is!

As uncomfortable as this seems (it screams against all baking experience)  pour the mix into a NON GREASED tube pan (looks like a flat topped Bundt tin). Apparently chiffon cakes need to cool upside down and grip the sides of the tin so they slowly slide out of the tin as they cool. If removed straight away the cake will concertina up and end up as a dense pancake.  Greasing the tin would make the cake slip out too quickly so try not to grease it

Chiffon batter ready to bake in it's un greased tube pan

Chiffon batter ready to bake in it’s un greased tube pan

Now with all that wonderful air in the cake the sponge springs up magnificently in the oven almost escaping the tin. With the hole in the middle the cake will cook quicker and more evenly which can only be a bonus in my oven.

The enormous Pandan Chiffon Cake!

The enormous Pandan Chiffon Cake!

You will need to keep an eye on the cake to make sure it doesn’t burn.  Bake it for 50 mins at 160 degrees c ( fan) but if it is cooked through sooner take it out (or leave it longer if it needs it.) I made the mistake of sticking cocktail sticks into the cake too often to check that it was cooked. This meant I deflated the cake slighty. Also pausing to mess around taking photos of the cake meant that I didn’t invert the cake tin quick enough and to my horror saw the cake sag down inside the tin. You can see on the cooled cake that it has a little ridge around the bottom of the cake (a bit like a muffin top over spilling someone’s jeans). Note to self: check it’s cooked and tip the tin upside down immediately when taking it out of the oven!

Despite it's saggy ridge the Pandan Chiffon Cake was amazing!

Despite it’s slightly saggy ridge the Pandan Chiffon Cake was amazing!

Once the cake cooled completely I found that it didn’t slide out of the tin as easily as I had hoped, as the cake was clinging on a little too tightly to the tin. I coaxed it gently out of the tin using a sharp knife and running it around the edge of the tin, allowing gravity to do the rest of the job. This meant that the cake didn’t have a shiny finish to it, but  I think this is how it’s supposed to look.

The Magnificent Pandan Chiffon Cake

The Magnificent Pandan Chiffon Cake

What a magnificent cake the Pandan Chiffon Cake is! It is extremely light and soft to the touch, more like a tasty pillow than a cake. I’ve never eaten a cake that actually melted in my mouth before until now. It’s moist and airy and keeps for at least 3 days after baking it. (That’s as long as I managed to save my final piece until.) It’s worth slicing the cake with the sharpest knife that you have to preserve it’s shape as much as possible as it is very delicate. (I may have been a tad heavy handed when slicing it up as I squished it slightly.)

A slightly squashed slice of Pandan Chiffon Cake

A slightly squashed slice of Pandan Chiffon Cake

Pandan is an unusual flavour. It perfumes the air whilst managing to taste both sweet and savoury at the same time. It’s similar to Green Tea (Matcha) cakes but like nothing else that I’ve ever tasted before. I will surely be baking this again. It really doesn’t take as long as you might think, perhaps 30 minutes to prepare and as it doesn’t need any dressing up, you don’t need to spend time decorating the cake. Icing would be overkill. It’s a deceptive cake. It looks rather plain and boring from the outside, but that first slice releases the pandan perfume and the glorious green chiffon . It’s a much more complex and interesting cake than you might initially think. If you’re going to attempt an exotic cake I can’t recommend the Pandan Chiffon Cake enough!

An empty plate speaks for itself!

An empty plate speaks for itself! – The Pandan Chiffon Cake disappeared very quickly

Things I used to make my Pandan Chiffon Cake

Batter

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 100g sugar
  • 140ml coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 170g pandan flavoured glutinous rice flour (you can use plain rice flour if you prefer)
  • 3 tsp pandan essence (1tsp paste)
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • (Green food colouring if you wish)

Egg whites

  • 8 egg whites
  • 100g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Method

  1. Whisk the eggs yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Whisk in the coconut milk, pandan essence (and a splash of green food colouring if you would like it extra bright)
  3. Sift the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and flour together
  4. Whisk in a third of the flour mixture followed by a third of the oil until it’s all incorporated
  5. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until frothy, then gradually add the sugar and cream of tartar
  6. Beat until the eggs whites are they reach stiff peaks
  7. Fold the egg whites into the batter gently
  8. Pour into a non greased tube pan
  9. Bake at 160 degrees c fan for 50 minutes
  10. When fully cooked invert the tin immediately over a cooling rack and allow the cake to slide gently out of the tin as it cools
  11. Slice with a very sharp knife and store in an airtight container
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57. Iranian Pistachio Cake

Iranian Pistachio Cake - powered by pistachios

Iranian Pistachio Cake – powered by pistachios

How delicious are pistachios? Ever since I’ve ventured to Greece and gorged myself on Baklava and Pistachio Gelato in Italy I’ve longed to flavour more with the glorious green god of nuts. I could eat them every day and love the Middle Eastern desserts which feature the beauteous nuts. Thank god I remembered to buy shelled pistachios this time round as this contains a HUGE amount of pistachios! No more lonely hours spent cracking nuts in the kitchen or broken nails for me.

How many pistachios can you cram into one cake?

How many pistachios can you cram into one cake?

I was looking for an especially decadent cake for my friend’s birthday and the Iranian Pistachio Cake offers everything I was looking for. A delicious, moist, sweet sponge with a hint of exotic spice. I know Pistachios aren’t cheap, so you could try substituting them for your favourite nuts (or whatever you have in your cupboard) instead. Maybe almonds, cashews or even hazelnuts? They would also be gorgeous versions of this cake.

Start with beating the butter and sugar together...

Start with beating the butter and sugar together…

As with most cakes the Iranian Pistachio Cake begins with beating the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Adding as much air as possible to get that wonderfully tender sponge.

Grind up your nuts, salt and spices

Grind up your nuts, salt and spices

Then for the fun part, smashing up the nuts! Blitz the pistachios with an electric blender/food processor until they’re finely ground. Careful not to grind them too much though as the nuts will release their oils and end up as a pistachio paste which will deflate your cake (or if you keep going you could make your own raw nut butter). I  ground my cardamom along with the salt for extra friction in a pestle and mortar and then added it to the nuts and blitzed them all together to ensure the spice was evenly distributed and fine.

The eggs should then be beaten into the butter one at a time. Beat the mixture until very fluffy and increases in volume.

Whisk in the eggs one at a time

Whisk in the eggs one at a time

Combine the ground pistachios, spice and salt with the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Measure the milk into a jug and add the vanilla paste. Fold one third of the flour into the butter mixture followed by a third of the milk. Fold in a third of the flour followed by another third of the milk alternately until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter.

Pistachio Cake ready and waiting

Pistachio Cake ready and waiting

Carefully pour the cake batter into a greased cake tin so you don’t knock any of the precious air out of the sponge. I wanted to test out my new fluted brioche tin to make the cake look a little more fancy. (Hope you like my holiday souvenir! I managed to squash 3 cake tins in my suitcase from Portugal! Is it just me who brings baking equipment home from holiday?) I love the moulded shape. Using a smaller tin means the cake requires a longer baking time in the oven but I think the dramatic shape is well worth the effort.

Fully baked Iranian Pistachio Cake chilling

Fully baked Iranian Pistachio Cake chilling

After almost an hour in the oven the cake was thoroughly cooked.  I patiently waited 30 minutes before tentatively opening the oven to check if it was done and continued to check every 10 minutes with a skewer that the cake was cooked. The edges did start to brown, so I resorted to a cap of tin foil to protect the top of the cake from burning. You could bake the cake in a bundt tin or a 9 inch round tin. and should take a little less time to cook. You will need to bake it for probably around 30-40 minutes if you’re using a larger tin as the cake will be thinner and require less cooking time. The final cake is a deep brown in colour and springs back when touched.

Rosewater sugar icing

Rosewater sugar icing – the perfect consistency!

Cardamom is a regular character in Eastern cakes and desserts. It compliments the delicious pistachios with it’s subtle spice. Traditionally this cake doesn’t ask for any icing, but I thought something sweet would be a welcome addition. I added my own rosewater glace icing to sweeten the sponge. I always struggle with glace or water icing, with it often ending up runny, resulting in soggy cakes and never endingly wet icing. If I was hoping to make a syrup I would be able to do this with my eyes closed. Desperate to get it right, I actually measured my liquids before adding them to the icing sugar! Using my kitchen aid I beat the icing sugar adding the rosewater one teaspoon at a time to ensure I didn’t over egg the pudding, as I’ve learnt from experience you can’t take extra liquid out if you get a bit too enthusiastic with the bottle…

Genuinely thick rosewater icing

Genuinely thick rosewater icing

Triumph! I succeeded in making a thick pipeable rosewater icing for the first time ever!! Hurrah! If anything it could have been a tiny bit more runny so that it could run down the sides of the cake giving a natural trail in it’s wake. Next time I may add a smidge more rosewater to make it slightly more runny. But hey I’m not complaining! I was aiming for an rosey flavoured iced bun effect and that’s exactly what I got.

Crushed pistachio topping

Crown of crushed pistachios

Smashing up a handful of pistachio in the pestle and mortar I got a bit artistic, adding a crown of crushed pistachios whilst the icing was still sticky so it holds the nuts in place once set. I didn’t want it to look too pristine, so I threw some nuts at the edges of the cake too allowing the crumbs to stick to the icing tracks too.

Happy Birthday Mel!

Happy Birthday Mel!

I loved this cake, so much so I helped myself to 2 slices. (Me? Greedy?) It makes a wonderful alternative to the traditional chocolate birthday cake. A grown up cake full of flavour. Sweet, light and spicy with a tiny crunch to it powered by pistachios. It feels wonderfully exotic with every waft of cardamom balanced against the gentle rose icing. I will most definitely be baking this cake again.

The perfect pistachio slice

The perfect pistachio slice

Each slice glows with the subtle green flecks from the pistachios, contrasting beautifully against the white icing. The cake cuts smoothly and is really robust, so it travels well. (Just in case like me you end up regularly carrying cake around to surprise people with.)

Iranian Pistachio Cake recipe

Iranian Pistachio Cake

Things I used to make my Iranian Pistachio Cake

  • 170g butter
  • 200g sugar

Beat until light and fluffy

  • 3 eggs

Beat in the eggs one at a time until pale and fluffy

  • 180g (3/4 cup) of pistachios
  • 1 tsp of ground green cardamom (this was 9 or 10 cardamom pods)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Blitz the pistachios, spice and salt together until finely ground

  • 140g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Stir the pistachios into the flour and baking powder

Fold one third of the flour mix to the butter and eggs

  • 110ml (1/2 cup) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the vanilla to the milk

Fold one third of the milk to the butter and flour mix

Alternate adding flour and milk to the mix and continue until all ingredients are incorporated

Pour into a greased (and lined if your tin will allow for this) tin and bake at 180 degrees C for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake.  Put a tin foil hat on the cake if it starts to darken too much.

Icing

  • 170g icing sugar
  • 10 tsp rosewater
  • handfull of crushed pistachios
  1. Beat the rosewater into the icing sugar one teaspoon at a time to ensure you get the right consistency. Thick yet runny icing.
  2. Smash the pistachios up to rough pieces and decorate the cake as you wish
  3. Devour with a glass of champagne (if it’s an especially decadent occasion) or proper cup of strong coffee would work wonderfully too. Enjoy!